For more than two centuries, a period that lasted longer than the ancient Pax Romana, the city of Florence was the center of the political, financial, and—more importantly—artistic life of the Christian West. Unlike its imperial predecessor, this more modern hegemony was due to neither the efficiency of an authoritarian administration nor a military power. The pre-eminence of Florence was based on the almost miraculous vibrancy, inventiveness, and creative energy of a closely knit mercantile community whose innovations and accomplishments went on to bear fruit ever further beyond the city’s borders and to transform early modern Europe with ideas, processes, and products.

 

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